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The Week Junior Book Club

The Week Junior Book Club

The Week Junior Book Club selects one book every month for kids and families to read and discuss together. See our most recent pick below!

June 2023 Book Club Pick
Lei and the Fire Goddess

By Malia Maunakea (Penguin Workshop)

Every summer, Anna travels from her home in Colorado to spend a few weeks with her grandmother, who lives in a remote village in Hawaii. Her grandmother believes in Hawaiian curses, but 12-year-old Anna doesn’t. On a walk in the forest with her friend Kaipo, Anna picks a special type of flower that her grandmother has warned her will upset Pele, the fire goddess. To Anna’s surprise, removing the flower triggers an earthquake and sets off a volcanic eruption. Then a giant hawk kidnaps Kaipo. Could her grandmother have been right all along, or is what happened a coincidence? Anna goes on the adventure of a lifetime as she tries to rescue Kaipo and save her grandmother’s house from a path of lava. Talking animals, shape-shifting, and a big family secret are all part of the action. Plus, there are a couple of huge twists involving the main characters. If you like reading about mythology, you won’t be able to put this book down. You’ll get a glimpse into Hawaiian culture, myths, legends, and food through the book’s many characters.



Meet Malia Maunakea

See Malia Maunakea talk about her new book Lei and the Fire Goddess in a special video she made just for The Week Junior.

june author

Talk about Lei and the Fire Goddess

From complex characters to surprising twists, there’s a lot to talk about with friends and family who have also read this fantasy novel. Use these questions to kick off your conversation.

  1. Do you think Anna should have to go visit her grandmother in Hawaii every summer? Why or why not?
  2. What strategies could Anna use to feel more confident about her heritage around her classmates?
  3. How could Anna be a better friend to Kaipo?
  4. Did this book remind you of any other stories you’ve read? If so, which ones?
  5. What mystical element of the story appeals to you the most?
  6. Were you surprised by Pele’s behavior? Why or why not?
  7. How does Anna grow as a person in the story?

May 2023 Book Club Pick
The One and Only Ruby

By Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao (Harper)

Ruby, a young elephant, has a secret: She hates her tusks. For the other elephants who live at a wildlife sanctuary, tusks are a big deal. They even hold a Tuskday ceremony when a little elephant’s tusks come in. But Ruby hides when it’s time to practice for the ceremony. Tusks are the reason her mom is no longer alive. Ruby was born in the African savanna, and poachers killed her mom so they could get her tusks and sell them. (Elephant tusks are made of ivory, a valuable material.) For the first time, Ruby tells her animal friends, Ivan and Bob, exactly what happened during her first few weeks of life. Talking about her past helps Ruby embrace her future. Will she be able to go through with the ceremony? While this story is the third title in the One and Only Ivan series, you don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it. You may feel sad reading about Ruby’s past, but there are plenty of jokes to lighten the mood. The illustrations that depict the body language of the elephants are fascinating.



Meet Katherine Applegate

Hear Katherine Applegate talk about her new book The One and Only Ruby in a special video she made just for The Week Junior.


Talk about The One and Only Ruby

Written in first person from the point of view of a young elephant, this emotional story lends itself to discussion with friends and family who have also read the book. Here are some questions to help get your book club conversation started.

  1. Should Ruby have to attend the tusk ceremony? Why or why not?
  2. What did you learn about Ruby from her body language?
  3. How is Ruby’s personality different from Ivan’s?
  4. What do you think was the story’s turning point?
  5. How have the hardships in Ruby’s life made her stronger?
  6. What do you think are the top challenges that elephants face?
  7. How did this book make you feel?
  8. Is this your favorite book in the series? Why or why not?

April 2023 Book Club Pick
Elf Dog & Owl Head

By M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)

When the pandemic shuts down school, Clay misses seeing his friends. His two sisters are also getting on his nerves. He walks into the woods near his house to play Frisbee by himself, which he knows is pointless. That’s when he finds
 an unusual white dog with a jeweled collar. After playing fetch, Clay realizes there’s something magical about the dog. She can retrieve the Frisbee without Clay seeing her do it. It’s his first sign that the woods are enchanted. He soon learns that it holds magical paths, an underground kingdom, an owl-headed society, and a Giant. Clay returns home with the dog and tells his family the dog is an “elf-hound.” Clay and Elf Dog have adventures in the woods. Several times, they run into unfriendly creatures. Clay gets help from his family and a new friend. Will Clay and his dog get to stay together? This book’s descriptions may make you feel like you’re part of the action. Since the story is told in the third person, you’ll learn about how all the characters feel. The ending is suspenseful and satisfying.



Meet M.T. Anderson

Hear M.T. Anderson talk about his new book Elf Dog & Owl Head in a special video he made just for The Week Junior.



Talk about Elf Dog & Owl Head

Blending fantasy and realistic fiction, this novel takes place during the first few months of the pandemic in 2020. It lends itself to discussion with friends and family who have also read the story. Here are some questions to help get your book club conversation started.

  1. Which of the three siblings in the story could you most relate to and why?
  2. Do you think the Giant is wise? Why or why not?
  3. What magical element from the book do you wish was real?
  4. Do you think Clay should have helped Elf Dog return home? Why or why not?
  5. How do the siblings’ relationships with one another change during the summer?
  6. What do you think the drawings add to the story?

March 2023 Book Club Pick

By Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic)

It’s 1912 and the Titanic is setting sail from England to New York in this historical fiction story about 12-year-old Hazel. Without enough money to buy a ticket, Hazel sneaks on board. Her plan is to get to America so she can work in a factory and send back money to her family in England. While hiding in the part of the ship that holds cargo, she overhears crew members talking about a coal fire in the boiler room. She walks upstairs to a section of the ship for third-class passengers and meets a boy who helps her blend in with other passengers. Hazel, who dreams of becoming a journalist someday, begins asking questions about the construction and safety of the ship, which people had bragged was unsinkable. She takes notes and hopes to write a story in America. But before she gets there, her worst fears come true. Will she and the people she met make it off the ship? This story includes fascinating details about icebergs and how the fire on the ship made the Titanic less able to withstand the impact of an iceberg. There’s also a mystery sub-plot that you may find entertaining.



Meet Jennifer A. Nielsen

Watch a special video Jennifer A. Nielsen created for The Week Junior and hear her talk about her new book Iceberg.


march author

Talk about Iceberg

Although the characters in Iceberg are fictional, many of the book’s details are true. The fast-paced story lends itself to a discussion with others who have read the story. Here are some discussion questions kids and families can use:

  1. Would you have snuck onto the Titanic if you were Hazel?
  2. What details about how the Titanic was constructed surprised you the most?
  3. In your opinion, what was the most suspenseful part of the story?
  4. What skills does Hazel have that would make her a good journalist?
  5. If you could rewrite this book from another character’s point of view, who would it be and why?
  6. Were you satisfied with the book’s ending?

February 2023 Book Club Pick
The Windeby Puzzle 

By Lois Lowry, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh (Clarion Books)

The format of this book may be unlike anything you’ve ever read. It contains two fictional stories and three nonfiction chapters. It begins with the true story of German workers who found bones inside a peat bog (a type of wetlands) in 1952. Scientists determined the bones were from the 1st century, during a time period called the Iron Age. They believed these bones belonged to a small teenager they called the Windeby Girl. In the next chapter, author Lois Lowry creates a story about what happened to the girl, whom she names Estrild. Wanting to be a warrior even though it would have been forbidden, Estrild strives to break out of the expected female role. In doing so, she seals her fate. The next nonfiction chapter explains that 20th-century technology has revealed a surprising twist about the Windeby Girl. Based on that discovery, Lowry writes a second fictional story from a new point of view. The book’s blend of fact and fantasy may give you a fresh perspective on history. Ages 10+



Meet Lois Lowry

Hear Newbery Medal-winning author Lois Lowry talk about her new book The Windeby Puzzle in a video she made just for The Week Junior readers



Talk about The Windeby Puzzle

Discussion questions kids and families can use:

  1. What do you think happened to the Windeby Girl?
  2. Did you like how the chapters alternated between fiction and nonfiction? Why or why not?
  3. If you could give Estrild’s story a different ending, what would it be?
  4. Which character do you think showed the most bravery and why? 
  5.  How did the illustrations before each chapter help set the tone? 
  6. Some of Lois Lowry’s books have been turned into films. Do you think this book would make a good movie? 

January 2023 Book Club Pick
Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy

By Megan Reyes (Labyrinth Road)

Every 25 years, the village of Gerbera sends its king to the Land of Dragons. Legend has it that the fiery beasts eat the king and, in return, the dragons maintain peace with the village. That’s how it’s been for nearly 1,000 years. But this time, the king dies just before his journey. The knights argue about who will take his place. It is determined that Blue, a 12-year-old orphan who works in a horse stable, will be quickly crowned king and sent off to Dragon Mountain. When Blue gets there, a twist happens. Eventually, he teams up with three other children—including a runaway witch—to make lasting peace among the dragons, humans, and magical forces. The chapters switch perspectives, making you aware of different points of view, and the story’s magic, such as being able to smell emotions like fear and joy, is very cool. The book is the first in a series and ends on a cliff-hanger.



Meet Megan Reyes

Hear author Megan Reyes talk about her new book Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy in a video she made for The Week Junior readers.


Talk about Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy

Discussion questions kids and families can use:

  1. How are the dragons in this book different from those in other books you’ve read?
  2. Which character do you think showed the most bravery and why?
  3. How do you think the heroes in this book learned from one another?
  4. Can differences among people be an advantage to friendships? Why or why not?
  5. What secret that was revealed surprised you the most and why?
  6. Did you feel satisfied by the ending? Why or why not?

November 2022 Book Club Pick
Mihi Ever After

By Tae Keller, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez (Henry Holt and Co.)

During recess, Mihi likes pretending to be a princess. Her friend thinks fourth graders are too old to play make-believe. Wanting to be like Snow White, Mihi climbs an apple tree anyway. She gets in trouble with the playground monitor and is sent to the library. There, she meets Savannah and Reese, two girls who also like princess stories. They take candy from the librarian’s refrigerator. After eating it, the inside of the refrigerator turns into a rainbow forest. They step into the forest and learn that they are in the Rainbow Realm, a magical place. They see Cinderella’s mice, who tell them that they can train to be princesses and could get their own fairy tale. But everything is not what it seems. When Mihi realizes they may be trapped there, she will have to choose between being a princess or having friends. This story is the first in a new series. It may make you question popular princess tales.


Meet Tae Keller

Hear award-winning author Tae Keller talk about her new book Mihi Ever After in a video she made for The Week Junior readers. 


Talk about Mihi Ever After

Discussion questions kids and families can use:

  1. Should kids be allowed to play make-believe as long as they want to?
  2. Why is it unfair of Mihi’s classmates to tell her that she’s not the princess type?
  3. Do you think Mihi is treated differently because she is Korean American?
  4. What could Mihi have done to be a better friend to Savannah and Reese?
  5. Should Mihi have told Sleeping Beauty to wear gloves?
  6. Would you have given away your locket if you were Mihi—or not?
Discuss November

October 2022 Book Club Pick
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Överlöde

By Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books)

Greg’s older brother, Rodrick, takes center stage in the 17th book in this popular series. When Rodrick enters his rock band Löded Diper into a Battle of the Bands contest, he asks Greg to be a “roadie.” Greg accepts because he thinks being the brother of a famous musician is better than being a celebrity himself. Shortly before the band goes onstage for their first gig in more than a year, Rodrick realizes he left his drumsticks at home. He sends Greg to find a new pair, and this turns into a hilarious misadventure. When the band finally starts playing, the lead singer forgets most of the lyrics. They’ll need more jam sessions and luck to beat the other groups, especially a surprise competitor. The ending is epic! The drawings throughout the book contain many laugh-out-loud details, so be sure to look at them closely.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Overlode book cover

Meet Jeff Kinney

Listen to bestselling author Jeff Kinney talk about his new book Diper Överlöde in a video he made for The Week Junior readers. To find out where he’ll be in person, check out the list of appearances he’ll be making on his Diper Överlöde book tour.

Jeff Kinney

Talk about Diper Överlöde

Discussion questions kids and families can use:

  1. Did Greg act wimpy in this book? In what way?
  2. Was Greg’s reason for helping the band selfish? Should the band have paid Greg to help?
  3. Should Greg have told his brother that he didn’t think some of the band’s ideas would work out?
  4. What else could Löded Diper have done to become popular?
  5. Was it fair that the band’s singer didn’t get to sing his favorite songs?
  6. What part made you laugh the most?
Smiling kids hold books